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Today on Buy Some Damn Art we're launching a great show by San Francisco artist and educator Michelle Fleck

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for the past 7 years now, and originally grew up in Whittier, CA, which is a little suburb in Southeast LA County. I have family up in this area and fell in love with SF after many visits. I moved here for college and of course never left!

How did you get into painting junk, debris and other "unsightly" things?

While completing my BA in college, I was encouraged by my professors to really hone in on a subject matter that was important to me. Living in an urban environment, I became interested in the relationship between man and the landscape and the marks we leave on it. I began to notice this constant change in the city- buildings being demolished and rebuilt, the cycle of tenants moving in and out of apartments, and junk tossed out on the street. I strive to make work that has a sense of relevancy in a culture driven by a need for change and newness. When creating bodies of work, I found that this theme just continued to hold my interest piece after piece.

Sidewalk, $225.


Do you find beauty in these kinds of scenes in real life? Or do you add your own "beauty" so-to-speak when you paint them?

I do find a lot of beauty in scenes that are overlooked by the average passerby. I see them almost like little still-lifes with shapes and color. I have fun with painting these things— abstracting some of the shapes, injecting brighter colors to distinguish the man-made objects and garbage and debris, in contrast with the more muted tones of dirt and sand. In bringing these overlooked scenes into a painting, it’s my way of acknowledging that they exist and recognizing that we’re a part of them.

Empty Lot, $300.


Where do you find inspiration?

I’m inspired by the city, California landscape, colors, shapes, and being surrounded by so many galleries, museums, and other talented artists.


You work as a teacher too. Has it been a challenge to focus on your art practice at the same time?

Not at all! I’m so lucky to be able to balance my time between painting in the mornings and teaching in an afternoon program. I work at an art and play-based school with young children, so I get to tap into my own creativity when planning curriculum. It’s a ton of fun. Also, we emphasize sustainability and talk a lot with the children about taking care of the earth, so in many ways that has shaped my work—just thinking about our relationship with the landscape and where that is headed in terms of the next generation.

Free Pile, $250.


Has anyone ever compared your plastic bag paintings with the dancing plastic bag scene in the film American Beauty?

I’ve definitely heard that a few times! The bags are actually very typical take-out bags from restaurants in the city, and I’ve seen them get stuck on fences and trees many times on a windy day.

Have a Nice Day, $450.

What can't you live without?

My friends and family. Art supplies: Golden acrylics, artist’s tape, a fresh wood panel and my trusty paintbrushes. Coffee, and of course, some California sunshine.